Over the next couple of blog posts I am going to share with you the 7 on-negotiable rules of public speaking. These are rules you NEVER break. They are truly non-negotiable if you want to be a successful speaker.

Non-Negotiable Rule #1: Become the Script

The 1st non-negotiable rule of public speaking is to become the script. You need to know your presentation inside and out. To do that, you need to practice 1 hour for every 2 minutes of speech. For example, for a 30-minute speech, you will practice 15 hours. That means speaking out loud, so your ears hear your speech. The more your ears hear it, the more you become the script. It is like when you hear a song on the radio while driving in your car. You hear it over and over and before you know it, you are singing the words. You did not purposely try to learn it, you just did automatically from hearing it so often. Learning your speech by saying it out loud is the same principle. You will learn it inside and out. When you know your speech that well, it allows you to respond when unexpected things happen while delivering your speech without throwing you off track. You can easily adjust because you know every word of your presentation. Furthermore, if you get an inspiration that you need to share a particular story that you were not planning to share, you can stop and share it and get right back where you left off in your presentation. That is the benefit of becoming the script. It gives you speaking freedom.

Non-Negotiable Rule #2: Stay on Time

The 2nd non-negotiable rule of public speaking is stay on time. It sounds obvious but it is not. Some speakers get on stage and they forget about their allotted time. Big No-No. If you have been given 20 minutes to speak, then you need to end your presentation at 19.5 minutes. If you practiced 1 hour for every 2 minutes of speech, you would know where you are at any given time and will be able to end on time. This is critical. Speakers that go overtime show a disrespect to their audience and to the host and it could throw the timing off for the entire event. I guarantee you by staying on time, the host and the audience will love you. Everyone will appreciate your timeliness and you look like a real professional. No one appreciates anyone who steals the audience’s time, another speaker’s time, or the event time.

Having said that, if you are in a situation where the host tells you that another speaker went over time and they must cut your time (and this happens a lot), you need to be gracious and say, “Okay.” Do not complain or sulk. Be professional. Because you have embraced Rule #1 you should be able to easily adjust your talk for the new time frame. Professional speakers know how to cut their content with the audience ever knowing. In return, the host will appreciate you and be more likely to invite you back because you saved the day.

Sometimes even the time you were scheduled to speak could change. For example, let us say you were scheduled to speak at 3:30 pm and the host comes to you and asks you to shift your speaking time to 6:30 pm because one of the other speakers have an early flight to catch. Again, it may be challenging, but be gracious and accept the new speaking schedule. Go with the flow and know that the right people will hear your speech. The host will appreciate you and chances are you will be invited back.

A perfect example of what could happen if you are not gracious is what I personally witnessed in horror. Several years ago, I was hosting an event called Speak Your Way to Wealth. One of my speakers, was speaking over his time for about 20 minutes. My meeting planner gave him his que card for 5 minutes and then 1 minute. He kept talking. Finally, she held up a sign that said STOP. The speaker paused and then yelled “I’m not stopping!” Everyone in the audience was stunned including me. In that moment, I knew he blew his potential sales. He did not just yell at the meeting planner, he yelled at the entire audience. Instead, he could have been gracious and said, “Thank you.” Whatever happens, be gracious to everyone, and be respectful of your time and you have the greatest chance to win over your audience and be invited back.